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Food security situation improves in the North

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • August 2012
Food security situation improves in the North

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Improvement in both humanitarian aid delivery and climatic conditions in the North and the Western Sahel has helped ease pressure on a large part of the population affected by crisis-levels of food insecurity in July, who are now in  IPC Phase 2: Stress, particularly in pastoral areas. However, emergency programs are still needed to protect local livelihoods. 

    • The timely delivery of agricultural inputs to rice-growing cooperatives in the North should help optimize farming activities in irrigation zones and increase employment opportunities for the poor between now and December. 

    • Prices remain generally 40 to 80 percent above average, but markets continue to be supplied normally despite a sharper than usual seasonal decline in supply in the Western Sahel. In the North, imports of substitute foodstuffs from Algeria are enabling better than usual food access at lower prices. 

    • The desert locust situation remains stable, but good ecological conditions in locust breeding areas are a continuing source of concern. Insufficient financial and logistical resources are undermining the effectiveness of ongoing canvassing operations by organized teams in front-line areas.

    • Heavy rains in the first two weeks of August caused damage to homes and crops, particularly in the Ségou and Mopti regions, where current conditions could undermine crop production. 

    Updated food security outlook through September 2012

    Nationwide overview

    The political situation, in terms of both stability and security remains  generally at a status quo, without any major outbreaks of conflict in the north, and with the installation of a new government. IDPs from the northern part of the country are returning home in growing numbers, although population displacements continue. According to the Ministry overseeing humanitarian aid, approximately 64,700 displaced persons remain in different parts of southern Mali. Food and non-food assistance programs for DPs and host households across the southern part of the country are ongoing.

    Growing season

    Despite some localized seed access problems, the agricultural season in the North and the South is generally progressing normally. Harvest prospects for cereal crops are good, but the outlook for wild-flooded rice crops is somewhat less optimistic. Planting rates in the southern part of the country are at over 93 percent of projections for rainfed crops (millet, sorghum, and corn), and over 60 percent for rice crops, ahead of figures for the same time last year. There are reports of flooded fields, including many cleared fields, in lowland areas, particularly in Diéma, Nara, San, Mopti, Djenne, and Tominian departments.  The first fresh corn crops of the season are already available across the South. Deliveries of subsidized farm inputs continue and are farther along than they were at the same time last year and are 73 percent complete compared with only 49 percent at this time last year. The government and its development partners have been providing target areas in urgent need of seeds with supplies of both seeds and fertilizer. As noted in the underlying assumptions for the most likely scenario described in the July 2012 Outlook report, the revitalization of farming activities in the North, with the large volume of aid furnished by the government and its partners to irrigation schemes for rice-growing activities, will provide on-farm employment opportunities for poor households and help facilitate food access for the poor at reduced market prices. Expected rice harvests in December should improve food availability and household income from normal sales of crops.

    While, in general, growing season conditions have been more or less in line with normal seasonal trends, certain parts of the South will face crop losses and production shortfalls due to poor seed access, particularly by very poor and poor households. Cumulative rainfall totals at most rainfall gauging stations are above-average and higher than last year, particularly in the Mopti and Ségou regions reporting losses of cropping areas after the heavy rains at the beginning of the month which flooded out crops. This will reduce crop production in these regions by hampering crop maintenance work (lowering yields) and reducing harvestable areas. What were localized flooding problems in the early part of the month are starting to extend into many areas, particularly in Ségou, Yorosso, Koutiala, Nara, Dioila, Kayes, and Diema departments.

    Delays in the delivery of seed aid, particularly for rice crops in northern areas (mainly in and around the Mopti area), could affect yields by throwing off the typical progression of the agricultural calendar. These delays are heightening flooding risks in the Niger Delta with the level of the river steadily rising and the already overly high water levels in border irrigation schemes. The size of areas planted in floating rice is approximately 30 percent smaller than usual due to shortages of seeds, as households normally planting three sacks of seeds have been able to obtain no more than two sacks. Specialized units are currently in the process of assessing losses of cropland in different flood-stricken areas.

    Visible improvement in pastoral conditions and the resulting good milk availability in pastoral areas in the North and the Sahel are helping to ease pressure on local populations. Natural vegetation levels in most livelihood zones are much better than last year and well above-average. As usual, animal herds are back in their normal winter pastures, except in the Niger Delta at Tenenkou and Youwarou and riversine areas of Timbuktu and Gao, where return migration by livestock herds is slightly behind schedule due to the civil security threats in these areas. Prices for livestock are higher than in previous months, particularly for the holiday period. Prices for goats on the Nara market are reportedly up by 17 percent from last month. Likewise, cattle prices on the Mopti market have increased by approximately 30 percent. Thus, there is a clear improvement in terms of trade compared with last month, even in the northern part of the country.

    Officials at the highest levels of government remain concerned about the threat of a desert locust infestation. The National Desert Locust Control Center is deploying canvassing teams to the Mopti, Koulikoro, and Kayes regions to guard against possible locust invasions of these areas. There is an urgent need for funding and transportation facilities to effectively implement the locust control plan, the cost of which is estimated to be approximately 1.2 billion CFA francs, of which 600 million CFA francs have been mobilized by the government and the FAO. Canvassing operations are already underway in the Mopti and Koulikoro regions thanks to the reinvigoration of existing surveillance brigades. Improvement in ecological conditions is heightening the locust threat, particularly in the Adrar des Iforas, Timétrine, and Tamesna areas, where there have been sightings of groups of egg-laying adult locusts.

    Northern Mali (Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions)

    The strengthening of humanitarian aid programs in the northern part of the country is easing food security problems for target populations. Other positive factors include good milk availability, particularly for nomadic populations in the Far North, and remittances of extra food supplies sent by IDPs in Mopti and neighboring countries to their families back home. Currently, the ICRC is providing food aid for a third of the population of the country’s three northern regions, or approximately 500,000 people, and ongoing livestock marketing programs should help boost income from sales of animals.  With the delay in the start-up of program activities and, in particular, with the lean season already underway, WFP is planning a double distribution of complete rations to households in livelihood zones 3 and 4. The good pastoral conditions in these areas and the effects of these different programs extending through December have been helping to ease hardships for poor households in all northern livelihood zones throughout the month of August, particularly for pastoral populations in livelihood zones 1 and 2, whose food security situation is more or less returned to seasonal levels (IPC Phase 1: minimal food insecurity). The pursuit of ongoing programs in livelihood zone 3 (fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing) in the Timbuktu and Gao areas should help lower food insecurity levels from IPC Phase 3 (crisis) to IPC Phase 2 (stressed)  starting in September.

    Large-scale delivery of assistance in the form of seeds, fertilizer, and fuel for the growing season has been underway in the Timbuktu and Gao regions. Specifically, 41 metric tons of rice seeds, 100,000 liters of diesel oil, and 300 metric tons of fertilizer for 500 hectares of cropland have recently been delivered to cooperatives in the three main irrigation districts in Timbuktu. Other small-scale irrigation schemes have also received supplies of inputs. This should create employment opportunities and improve market access in livelihood zone 3 (fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing). This seed aid for irrigation schemes may not suffice to meet the enormous needs for seeds in riverine areas, but the combination of these supplies of farm inputs and distributions of food aid should help ease the effects of the crisis levels of food insecurity faced by poor households in zone 3 in August and September through income and meals provided by on- farm work.

    Good market supply in the northern part of the country, consisting mostly of imports from Algeria (pasta, wheat semolina, milk, oil, dates, and rice), at lower prices than before the insurgency are helpful to local residents. Cereal prices have dropped since last month due to good market supplies and ongoing humanitarian aid programs, but are still more than 70 percent above-average and anywhere from 30 to more than 50 percent higher than last year. The good pastoral conditions in this part of the country have slightly improved income from animal sales, an important source of income for a large segment of the local population. Terms of trade for goats/millet are still more than 30 percent below-average, but 13 to 28 percent higher than they were last month.

    Southern Mali

    Crop planting activities in farming areas across the southern part of the country are nearly completed and farther along than they were at this point in the 2011-2012 season. Ongoing crop maintenance and transplanting work for rainfed crops and rice are creating better than usual employment opportunities for poor households, which are a source of both food and income. This job availability should help improve food access for very poor and poor households on local markets through the end of August. As of the end of August, the availability of lean season foods (green corn, cowpeas, and vouandzou) will further strengthen food security conditions for households in livelihood zones 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12, propelling them from IPC Phase 2 (stressed) in August into IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity) by September. However, poor households in the Niger Delta (LZ 6) and the Western Sahel area of Nara, still recovering from the after-effects of an extremely poor 2011 harvest will still require assistance despite efforts made to fill their food gaps. The visible improvement in grazing and watering conditions for livestock across the South and the generally good availability of milk are improving the diet of pastoralist households and boosting household income from sales of milk and dairy products. As usual, supplies on cereal markets tightened in early August, but prices on major retail markets are virtually unchanged from last month. Certain markets are reporting comparatively sharp drops in prices of anywhere from five to 15 percent, particularly for rice and corn. Food security conditions for most very poor and poor households in the Kayes, Koulikoro, Ségou, and Mopti regions will be stressed through the end of August. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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